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5 Ways to Beat Procrastination

5 Ways to Beat Procrastination
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Ever have a plan in the works that you just can’t seem to get excited about? Ever have a deadline lacking the “gusto” to get you going? Ever stare at a blank screen wondering what everyone else is up to? Then this post is for you.

In the advent of social media, 4K television, and let’s face it -YouTube – it can be all too easy to play “Hide and Seek” with the multitude of tasks that we have at hand. Life seems to be moving so fast that in order to keep up we must shelf our individual obligations in favor of aimless digital wandering – to our own detriment.

A huge part of the problem in today’s balancing act of life is our increasing inability to “disconnect” and tackle our goals forthright. Assuming that you’re able to pull away from the cord – here are 5 ways to beat procrastination.

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Call Your Own Bluff

A big part of what consumes our focus are the bottomless thoughts of other, more entertaining things that we could be doing instead of what we are supposed to be engaged with. Whether it be exercising, starting that novel you’ve been thinking about, or perhaps even finally sending a message to that person that you have a crush on. As valid and enduring as these things may seem – chances are that they’re non-pressing issues that can be dealt with at a later time. The trick here is to call your own bluff.

Instead of wasting time daydreaming about the “better” things that you could be doing – do them. Indulge your procrastinative thoughts. Usually, the things that we think about doing to avoid what we should be doing are meaningless and relatively inconsequential. Make a deal with yourself that it’s either one or the other – and watch as those pointless thoughts dissolve.

Once faced with the obvious selection of reality versus fantasy, your drive will take effect, and your respective task should be easy to begin. In any case, should you choose latter, (with the distraction solved) you can – at that time – engage your initial responsibility.

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Go For a Walk

All too often we underestimate the power of taking a walk. To the procrastinator, it can seem like a time waster, meaningless, and just down-right boring. Defeat this thought by just getting up and moving. You don’t require a destination, nor do you need much else other than shoes on your feet and clothes on your back.

Walking provides an escape from the space of distraction and a separation from embedded laziness. Give yourself anywhere from fifteen minutes to a full hour to simply leave your home and wander about for a bit. This provides an arena for your action and thoughts to become a singularity. As your ideas wander aimlessly so do you. You’ll find that by doing this, you exhaust the momentum of your inner procrastinator.

Upon returning home with a clear mind – go directly to the task at hand. With your thoughts freed, your focus will become clear and unwavering.

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Why’s and Why Not’s

Should you not have the time to go for a walk or indulge in internal ultimatums, a simple list of why’s and why not’s can be a quick and easy way to sort through the muddled procrastinative mind. This list never has to be put into action. Instead, what writing this down does, is force your mind to focus on that responsibility.

Assuming that your obligation is important, the “why’s” section of your list will undoubtedly be longer than the “why not’s”. In either case, fold that list in half and concentrate on the why’s. Use this as motivation to handle your task, as well as a catalyst of focus should your diluting thoughts return.

Create a Reward

Human beings are complex, yet simple. If you look at anyone around you and honestly at yourself, you’ll find that there are few better functioning systems than ones built on rewards. This never has to be anything monumental – as a matter of fact, it may even work better if the reward is something small and immediate.

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Treat yourself to a snack, purchase something that you can’t justify buying, or create a checklist and bask in the jubilance of crossing it off. Little things can drive motivation, considering that your procrastination often goes unrewarded (or even punished) – a small of token of achievement to work toward, can easily silence the beast of aimless mental wandering.

Accountability

Considering none of the aforementioned advice works, an easy fail-safe method to annihilate procrastination is simply adding accountability. Instead of sitting around and staring at the ceiling, phone a friend or family member close to you, and explain the situation to them. Inform them of the importance of the task at hand, and ask them to hold you accountable for it’s incompletion.

Keep in mind, the friend or family member never really has to do much. The instant that the correspondence is over, the gravity of your responsibility will feel as if it’s been multiplied ten-fold. In essence, you’d be tapping into the human condition known as “fight or flight”. This added pressure will drive ambition, enhance focus, and provide momentum. Though seemingly severe, it’s a great way to kick yourself into high gear.

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Conclusion

Procrastination can seem like an unbeatable wall on the path to achieving your goals. Though many may attempt to avoid it by staying habitually active – the truth of the matter is that sometimes the best method is to confront it head-on. With the help of these steps, procrastination will become a worry of the past.

Featured photo credit: Shlomi Yosef via flickr.com

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Antwan Crump

Novelist, blogger, essayist, podcaster.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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